In their second meeting of the season, defending champs Sporting Kansas City (10-5-5), currently seeded 1st in the Eastern Conference, will travel north of the border to face off against 3rd place Toronto FC (7-5-5) at BMO Field tonight.
Games in hand have never meant as much as they do right now for TFC. With half of the season gone, a difficult road trip approaching, and multiple games in hand on those above and below them in the standings, the Reds need to lock down points immediately to help separate themselves from the pack.
Standing in their way is a Sporting side that is unbeaten in their last 5 games, and has a 2 point buffer on DC and a 9 point buffer on TFC. Even more of a factor in this match, besides the overall quality and depth of SKC, will be the absence of TFC’s leading goal scorer and arguably the most clinical finisher in MLS, Jermain Defoe, who is out due to yellow card accumulation.
While Gilberto hasn’t exactly been a revelation at the club and Luke Moore being luke-warm (see what I did there) for the most part, the Reds attack looks shockingly impotent at a very inopportune time. I’m sure all would agree that a well-rested Michael Bradley and a resurgent Jonathan Osorio and Dominic Oduro could be the shot in the arm the Reds will need to have any hope this evening.
As they showed in their mid-week clash against Vancouver, chance creation is not TFC’s problem. It’s finishing those chances that held them back in a game in which they seemed to be the only ones looking for a winner. Not having the services of Defoe in a pivotal match like this against KC will not help that situation.
The last meeting between these two Eastern Conference foes was back in late May that could’ve easily turned into a gong show. However, a 10-man TFC escaped Sporting Park with a 2-2 draw all thanks to the 91st minute heroics of Bradley Orr, whose equalizer shocked the crowd.
With most of KC’s injury woes behind them and a dangerous Dom Dwyer in form, Sporting would love to create even more separation between themselves and the rest of the conference by picking up all 3 away points in Toronto.
For TFC, a squad that desperately wants to be regarded as a top club in the league, finding ways to win against a strong opponent is what defines an elite team, regardless of their sport. As wrestling entertainer Ric Flair famously stated, “to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” I believe that rings true.
As the season progresses and the stakes get increasingly higher, the Reds will need to raise the caliber of their game to match. They’re more than capable of it. There should be no excuses. Only results.
Team notes: Thursday morning, Toronto FC was involved in a trade that saw the 1st rank in allocation ranking and allocation money to Houston for defensive midfielder Warren Creavalle.
(image courtesy of Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)